The End of the Age

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“Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?…Assuredly, I [Jesus] say to you [apostles], this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place” (Matt. 24:3, 34,  italics mine).

Note: Please read first my article “Are We Living in the Last Days?

The significance of the end of the Old Covenant age can hardly be overstated. When Jesus’s disciples asked about it in the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:3, above), the Old Covenant had been in force for about 1500 years, ever since Moses descended Mt. Sinai with the ten commandments in hand (Exodus 32). Therefore, Jesus predicting its end within a generation meant a monumental change was about to happen.

The Old Covenant age was an age of types and shadows[1]; but the New Covenant age would be the age of spiritual realities. Consider two immensely significant Old Covenant types/shadows: the city of Jerusalem and the temple.

Regarding the city of Jerusalem…Throughout Israel’s history, the city of Jerusalem was equated with connection to God, spiritual life, and heavenly blessings. Conversely, being exiled from Jerusalem and “the land” meant Israel was under divine judgment. God had made it clear from the time of the establishment of the Old Covenant—which was in essence a contract between God and Israel—that possession of Jerusalem and “the land” was conditional upon Israel obedience. If Israel strayed from the covenantal requirements, the land would “vomit them out” as it had its previous inhabitants (Lev. 18:28; Deut. 4:40, 23:63). During such times—such as during the seventy-year Babylonian captivity—the Jews considered themselves “dead.” And returning to the land was associated with “resurrection,” that is, a restored relationship with God (see Ez. 37:1-14).

As important as the physical city of Jerusalem was throughout Israel’s history, it was but a type/shadow of the New Jerusalem, the heavenly city, the church, in the New Covenant era. Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well: “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father…But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:21-24, italics mine).

Likewise, the writer of Hebrews contrasts the physical city of Jerusalem/land of Israel with the heavenly city/country, whose maker and builder is God (Heb. 11:8–16; see also Gal. 4:24–26).

The writer of Hebrews also spoke of the New Jerusalem—the church—in the New Covenant age: “But you [Christians] have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven…and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant” (Heb. 12:22-24, italics mine). This is in contrast to physical (Old Covenant) Jerusalem, which was the type/shadow.

Revelation, too, describes the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven as “a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 21:2). This “husband and bride” refers to Jesus and the church (Rev. 19:7-9; Eph. 5:25-27)!

The physical city of Jerusalem was a type/shadow of the New Jerusalem, the heavenly Jerusalem, the church, in the New Covenant age.

Regarding the physical temple…This too was immensely significant in Jewish history (just like the physical city of Jerusalem); yet as important as this temple was, it too was but a type/shadow of something much greater: the spiritual temple in the New Covenant age.

The physical temple was not merely a church-like building where Jews gathered once a week to worship; it was the center of historical, national, economic, and religious life. It was where Jews gathered for song, worship, learning, community, commerce, and sacrifice. It was also the repository of ancient scrolls, records of lineages/genealogies (which were required to serve as priest), artifacts, symbolic décor, and sacred objects.

The temple was also the visible reminder of God’s covenant with his people. It was the very representation–the symbol–of the Old Covenant age (Heb. 9:8-9). The temple was essential for obeying the vast majority the Old Covenant’s requirements, such as animal sacrifices, priestly duties and rituals, mandated feast day pilgrimages, etc. In fact, without a temple, a person can observe only 77 positive and 126 negative commandments—out of 613. What this essentially means is: no temple, no Old Covenant.

Keep in mind, there were two brief “temple-less” periods in Israel’s history during which times the Old Covenant nonetheless remained in force. The first was during the seventy-year Babylonian captivity, which began when the Babylonians destroyed the first temple / city of Jerusalem in 586 BC…and ended when the Jews were released from captivity and built/dedicated the second temple in 516 BC. The reason why God allowed this temple (Solomon’s Temple) to be destroyed was because Israel had strayed from her covenantal obligations; so God used the Babylonians to judge her. The land “vomited Israel out,” just like God had warned would happen if they strayed (Lev. 18:28; Deut. 4:40, 23:63).

Although Israel had no temple during this period, the Old Covenant remained in force. In fact, God promised to restore Israel: “After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to [Jerusalem]” (Jer. 29:10). And, after the Babylonian captivity ended, the Jews indeed returned to the land and built/dedicated the second temple (in around 516 BC) and resumed observing the Old Covenant requirements.

Israel had another “temple-less” period between 168-164 BC. Although the temple was not actually destroyed this time, it had become unusable because the Greek Hellenistic king Antiochus Epiphanes desecrated it by sprinkling pig’s blood on the altar and placing statues depicting Greek gods in it. Just like in 586 BC, the reason why God allowed this to happen was because Israel had strayed from the covenantal requirements, so God used Antiochus Epiphanes to judge her. This temple-less period lasted only a few years, though, after which it was restored/rededicated (after Judas Maccabeus had removed all of the statues depicting Greek gods and goddesses and purified it). The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah commemorates the restoration of worship in the second temple in Jerusalem in 164 BCE. After the rededication, the temple-related activities resumed and the Old Covenant continued on.

As devastating as these two temple-less periods were for Israel, they pale in comparison to the judgment in AD 70. Let’s compare the worse of the two—the destruction of Jerusalem and the first temple by the Babylonians in 586 BC—to the destruction of Jerusalem and the second temple by the Romans in AD 70. Both were judgments from God that resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. Both resulted in many thousands of Jews being killed, and many more being taken into slavery. However, the monumental difference between the two is that the latter judgment had permanent ramifications. When Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed the first time in 586 BC, God did not break his covenant. He certainly judged Israel harshly, but he did not end his covenant with her. In fact, he mercifully gave Israel another chance: “After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to [Jerusalem]” (Jer. 29:10). Not only did God give Israel a second chance, but he also gave her a second temple! However, when God judged Israel in AD 70, he not only destroyed Jerusalem and the temple, but he also ended his covenant with her—permanently (Heb. 8:13). God took away the kingdom from Israel and gave it to “another nation,” the church (Matt. 21:43, 1 Pet. 2:9). Moreover, God replaced the physical temple with a spiritual temple, of which Jesus is the Cornerstone and Christians are the living stones (1 Pet. 2:4-9). And this New Covenant temple here to stay. The gates of hell shall never prevail against it (Matt. 16:18). To destroy this new temple would be to destroy Jesus, its Cornerstone—and that’s not going to happen!

Even if the Jews someday manage to oust the Muslims from the Temple Mount area and build another temple—which the Bible does not predict, by the way, contrary to many commentators (see my article “The Third Temple”)—it will not matter because the Old Covenant age has ended (Heb. 8:13). God will never again accept animal sacrifices, from Levitical priests, in a physical temple.

The Old Covenant age officially ended when the physical temple was destroyed in AD 70 (Matt. 24:2–3, 34). This is also when the everlasting New Covenant age[2] officially began. The fact that there has not been another (Jewish) temple for two thousand years should put a big exclamation point on all this. It’s as if God himself is intentionally preventing another temple from being built, as if to say: “There is a New Covenant now…and it’s here to stay!”

For more information about these issues, see my book The End Is Here, available summer 2024.  

Alex Polyak, The Bible Fulfilled 10/27/23


[1] A type/shadow points forward to, or foreshadows, a greater event, person, or reality. And once that greater reality appears—which is called the “antitype”—the type/shadow loses its significance. For example, physical circumcision was a type/shadow of the greater spiritual circumcision of the heart (Col. 2:11). The Law was a shadow of the better New Covenant realities (Heb. 10:1). Saturday Sabbath/rest from physical labor was a type/shadow of ultimate rest in Christ (Heb. 3:7–4:16). The annual Passover sacrifice of a lamb was a type/shadow of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross (1 Cor. 5:7). These kinds of Old Covenant types and shadows pointed forward to the greater New Covenant realities.

[2] The new covenant age has no end (Heb. 13:20, Jer. 32:40, Isa. 61:8).